Osteoporosis is a relatively common disease, with decreasing bone mineral density as we age being considered a key risk factor. However, certain physical activities during youth can delay the onset of osteoporosis by over a decade.
A new study by experts at Japan’s Juntendo University examined whether different sports played at school are associated with the so-called area-related bone mineral density in old age. The results were published in the journal “Frontiers in Physiology”.
Youth years with far-reaching effects
Early lifestyle habits can greatly influence health and the occurrence of diseases in old age. This also applies to physical activities in youth, reports the research team.
In addition, it has already been found in previous studies that the onset of osteoporosis can be delayed by up to 13 years if a ten percent increase in maximum bone mass is achieved in youth, the researchers explain. However, it is not yet known which types of sporting activities in youth have a positive influence on bone mineral density.
Which sports can help?
In their current study, the researchers therefore examined the connection between sports played in youth and individual characteristics as well as bone mineral density in old age.
The participants consisted of 1,596 people between the ages of 65 and 84 who were part of the so-called Bunkyo Health Study. The team analyzed physical fitness, the level of biomarkers in the blood (including vitamin D) and additionally the bone mineral density of the femoral neck and lumbar spine.
A survey was also administered to assess participation in sports activities during adolescence. Illnesses, lifestyle habits and medication intake were also recorded for the examination.
The most common sports played by young people in the study were baseball/softball, basketball, judo, table tennis, tennis, volleyball and swimming, the experts report.
Basketball, volleyball and swimming
The study results show that basketball in particular was associated with a significantly higher femoral bone mineral density in older men and women, the researchers emphasize.
In addition, women who played volleyball in their youth had a higher bone mineral density in the lumbar spine. According to the experts, the same applied to women who participated in swimming in their youth, but not to men.
The researchers also found that body weight, vitamin D status and diabetes conditions influence the bone mineral density of the lumbar spine.
Sport in youth has a lifelong effect
Physical activity in youth has an impact on bone mineral density even more than 50 years later, and the results suggest that proper early exercise can lay the foundation for healthy bones in old age, according to the research team.
According to experts, high-impact sports activities to stimulate bone growth in school-age children should be urgently encouraged. “Our results can serve as a guide when selecting sports to practice in adolescence in order to achieve longer-term health benefits,” explains study author Professor Yoshifumi Tamura in a press release.
The study illustrates the importance of exercise in adolescence for the prevention of osteoporosis and provides scientific evidence for the introduction of early preventive measures against osteoporosis. (as)